An occupation on the Far North's Karikari Peninsula is due to end Wednesday evening after a landowner agreed to hapū demands for permanent protection of sand dunes regarded as a wāhi tapu (sacred place).
The occupation was sparked four weeks ago when the landowner planned to use a digger to widen an accessway through the dunes at Pātia o Matariki, near Whatuwhiwhi.
The Far North District Council had given permission for the work, but local hapū Te Whānau Moana and Te Rorohuri said the dunes were a burial site used by their ancestors.
Occupation coordinator Keringawai Evans-Larkin said the ahi (fire) would be extinguished at 6pm today as part of tikanga to formally end the occupation.
An agreement signed by the landowner Tuesday afternoon, and accepted at a hui that evening, would see a covenant placed on the dunes preventing any future building or earthworks.
The accessway that sparked the occupation would be permanently closed, and a fence would be erected between the road and the wāhi tapu.
The original accessway across the dunes, at the far end of the beach near Haiti-tai-marangai Marae, would remain so the beach could still be accessed by people wishing to launch their boats.
Evans-Larkin said the occupation had been well-supported by up to 100 people during the day and 50 overnight, with numbers swelling to more than 150 during hui.
"We've always practised kaitiakitanga over that wāhi tapu even though the title wasn't in our name," she said.
"We went into battle against the council and the owner to say, 'Hey, this needs to be protected.' We wouldn't have achieved this if we didn't have so much support and the ability to work collectively for one kaupapa."
Although the physical occupation was ending, Evans-Larkin said the hapū still had work to do with the council and lawyers.
"But we now know there'll be no building and no digger work on Pātia o Matariki, so we're over the moon. We have a saying in Ngāti Kahu: Ngāti Kahu tokoiti, Ngāti Kahu manawanui. Though we may be small we have huge hearts in terms of our commitment to make things happen."
Evans-Larkin, also vice-chairperson of Haiti-tai-marangai Marae, said the fence would show people they could not just wander over the dunes.
It had not been needed in the past because locals knew their significance, but that was not necessarily understood by visitors.
Construction of the fence was subject to a cost-sharing arrangement between the landowner, hapū and the council, with details yet to be finalised.
The controversy also highlighted issues within the Far North District Council, with staff who granted the easement unaware of the area's significance or a hapū plan earlier lodged with the council.
The hapū have applied for formal wāhi tapu status for the dunes as part of the council's incoming district plan, but that plan is not yet in effect.